Why does a Balloon Rise? Misconceptions and Formative Assessment

Much of conceptual reasoning in the science classroom is best understood through starting with misconceptions, realizing the underlying causes, then reinforcing those causes with other similar concepts. Having taught my 6th graders movement physics earlier this year, they were already familiar with gravity and acceleration. They had been shown that gravity IS an acceleration, but most were not yet proficient with how the two concepts relate. The next part of this States of Matter unit, is about Boyle’s and Charles’s gas laws. I wanted to bridge this gas unit with our previous unit on thermal energy exchange through changes of state. We had made ice cream and measured the thermal energy lost from the cream to melt the ice in the outer bag. Then, the peardeck questions would ultimately reinforce their understanding of gravity and acceleration. So, Friday Feb. 9th, I decided to demo a hot air balloon in class and use peardeck formative assessment questions to become the conceptual glue. I got a long trashcan liner from the custodian, and used two kids to help hold the bag as it inflated with excited hot air from a bunsen burner on the floor. For each class we got a “wow” moment as the bag would fly up to the ceiling and slowly fall back down. Then, I had them use table partners to answer two peardeck questions for the remainder of the period. This was the first time we didn’t have enough computers for everyone, so it worked like a Think-Pair-Share with only one computer for every two kids. The first question was simply “Explain what happens to make...

What does a Science teacher have to learn from a Choir teacher?

Louisville Middle School Choir We’ve got a choir teacher at our school who has a special way of getting his kids to perform. We’re in a middle school of 6th-8th grades. After he gets a group of kids for three years, his concert choir can sing as well as the Mormon Tabernacle choir. Okay, maybe not that good, but they are clearly better than most High School choirs. He is well liked by everyone in the building, and the kids love him. There’s something in his method that makes his class a desirable place to be, as well as demanding more than the kids think they have to give. So, as another teacher in the building, there’s something I can learn from his pedagogy. Our principal has been steadfast in her desire for our staff to communicate and learn from each other, even creating an observation form for visiting our colleagues. So, one of my favorite classes to visit this year has been Profé’s class. The kids are required to enter the class in a hushed silence. They know where to sit. He very kindly talks with most of the students as they come into class, and gets quite personal with several of them. Before they begin an activity he describes not just what they’re about to do, but all about how they will move to the spot, how loud or soft they will talk or move, how they will end, and where they will stand or sit. If anyone is distracted or isn’t paying attention he will have them “reset”, which means go to the door and touch...

Ode to the BIG FINAL EXAM!

When you think about it, when do you remember your introduction to studying? I mean real studying. Not reading over something, or memorizing words, numbers, or steps. You know, when you poured through the material and broke it down. Took notes and worked through the material in a way that taught you the hows and whys of the concept. I’m guessing it was when you took Algebra, or Physics in High School. I think we’d all agree that studying is a gem that can get you those grades you want, and better than that, gives you that value-added skill that can make you successful in life. So, as a middle school teacher I’ve looked at my curriculum and my students and have made decisions with testing and grading that lead me to the conclusion that if a test isn’t hard, students will not study. It’s human nature, right? But, if it’s evil, long, and hard, they will study or die. So, those are the words that my students live by in my class. Study or die. And though I take a lot of pride in getting my students to study, I pay the ultimate price during winter break in grading that huge heavy stack. So, here’s the 1st semester final 2017: 1st Semester Final ex. p1 1st Semester Final ex. p2 1st Semester Final ex. p3 1st Semester Final ex. p4 1st Semester Final ex. p5 1st Semester Final ex. p6 1st Semester Final ex. p7 1st Semester Final ex. p8 1st Semester Final ex. p9 As you can see, this test perfectly fits the bill if you want...

Peardeck Helps Focus Nov. 17, 20017

Yesterday was one of those days where our schedule was disrupted by a guest speaker event. We had all of our kids in the school’s gymnasium for an hour and a half, then my sixth graders were taken out of their last three periods of the day for a special team building event with 8th grade leaders. So, I had three classes to prepare for, and whatever I did would need to be educational, not graded, yet would hold the kids attention on this crazy day. Answer – Between the Folds Documentary on Origami and 4 Peardeck Questions Between the Folds Peardeck...

Peardeck’s Dashboard Helps Foster Inclusion

For the past several years, one of my most challenging teaching goals was how do I promote my 6th grade science students to become resources for the learning of others in the classroom? Peardeck has been a big help in fostering a spirit of inclusion in my classroom! One of the things I’ve done to help promote kids talking to each other and feeling safe enough to share the deeper whys and hows of their thought processes has been using Peardeck’s Dashboard during weekly sessions. By scrolling through how kids are answering questions, I can make a sort of game out of certain questions and question types that may be particularly important to understanding a week’s main concept and may be difficult for them to wrestle with. If everyone gets a multiple choice question, a number answer, or a draggable correct, then we all get to say “yay” in unison. They’re instructed through the year not to give out answers, but to “lead the ones they’re helping” to the correct answer without revealing the actual answer. I say “I know you are all good people and want to help your classmates, but if you reveal the answer you’re harming your friend’s education. You can show them where to find the answer, or how to think about it without giving it away completely. If you help them and let them find their own answer, they get to learn!” For example, when we worked on the force equation (F=MA) and questions around a demonstration of dropping different masses into clay and measuring drops of water, the kids had to answer several...